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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Back to the Dream by Felicitas Ivey

Back to the Dream by Felicitas Ivey
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (309 pgs)
Other: M/M, Anal Sex
Rating: 4 cherries
Reviewed by Phlox

Although Inuzaka Keno has found freedom and love in the Dreamlands with oni Samojirou Aboshi, the war is still raging between The Trust's battle-hardened recruits and the demons of his new home. While cloaked in shadows and magic, powerful people are using Keno, Aboshi, and their Lord Tamazusa as pawns in a deadly plan to rule both worlds.

They're not alone: soldiers Mason, Wolf, and McGann—Keno's friends from The Trust—also find themselves embroiled in the battle spreading through the Dreamlands, involving its other lands and cultures. If they're to have any chance to survive, Aboshi will have to leave his love to protect him, and Keno will have to find the power within himself to live on without his heart.

The world building in Ms. Ivey’s Dreamlands is breathtaking. Constructed partly around a version of our own modern world, (for the Trust) partly around feudal Japan, (for Nippon in the Dreamlands) and partly out of the author’s fertile imagination, this is a vibrant, living, breathing world, one that leaps off the page and shakes the reader by the scruff. The attention to detail, from clothing to language, from food to weaponry to transport, fleshes out a world that feels not only complete but also compelling in its beauty and peril.

This is not a traditional romance story arc. Our lovers are already together and committed. Our narrators are several, not merely our lovers. But there is enough danger, angst, and separation for the lovers that the emotional arc follows the same path for the reader. With varied and complex characters and plenty of intrigue, the plot generally gallops along at a good clip.

There were a few odd issues of pacing and plausibility here and there. Not many, for the length of the work, but at some crucial moments. Tamazusa’s decision to go with Iida on his boat was difficult to swallow, especially for someone with centuries of successful intrigue behind her. The crossing of the barrier had quite a build up – and then the reader wasn’t allowed to see it happen and missed any plausible explanation of why it had worked. The ending battle as well, when motives were revealed or not quite revealed, had an odd, confused quality, as if the villain’s motives hadn’t quite gelled or as if the reader might be missing pieces. Since the end of the book was not a true ending, with too many loose ends left lying about, the second is possible.

Despite one or two unfathomable actions, the characters otherwise are consistent and have the breadth and depth to learn and grow. They draw on unexpected reserves of strength. They surprise themselves, especially Keno, who finds moments of courage and ferocity where he thought there would always only be fear.

There will be more written in this series and this reader, at least, is eager to return. Questions still need to be answered, truths need to be faced, and those darn Trustees need to learn their lesson. All too often, fantasy romance skimps on the creation of a believable world. There is no skimping in the Dreamlands. All the best ingredients are here, lush and rich, full of exotic flavors and heady aromatics for the mind. I would never wish to rush such a careful creative effort, but I do hope we are allowed to go back soon.

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